Preview: Splinter Cell: Blacklist: Spies Vs Mercs

I was a late arrival to the Splinter Cell party. My first experience with the now legendary Spy Vs Mercenary mode came with Double Agent on the Xbox 360 shortly before the release of Splinter Cell: Conviction, and as you can imagine from so late into the games release, the servers weren’t exactly bursting with players, so it became repeat games between myself and a handful of friends. It was fun enough, but we quickly worked out each others tactics and the challenge didn’t last. Also I wasn’t very good and didn’t enjoy losing.

• Developer: Ubisoft Toronto
• Publisher: Ubisoft
• Reviewed on: Xbox 360
• Also Available On: PS3/Wii U/PC
• Release Date:  08/20/13 (US) / 23/08/13 (Europe)

One of Convictions major complaints was the lack of the Spies Vs Mercs mode, and as much as I loved Deniable Ops I, like many others, wanted to experience the rush of being both the hunter and hunted in Conviction’s revised engine. Well Ubisoft heard our cries, and last Monday I was lucky enough to attend a hands on at Shoreditch Studios, and it was everything I had hoped for.

Upon entering I was given a lanyard with a number which designated me a team, number five to be precise. It turns out I had just been signed up for a tournament, but before that began I was given a hands on with the ‘Classic’ 2v2 mode.

The games consisted of two rounds; one as spies, one as mercenaries. The objective was simple; the spies had to hack one of three computer terminals via wireless link up, and the mercenaries had to stop them. If the spies managed to hack a terminal within the designated time limit they won the round, and if the mercenaries managed to hold them off for that time then they won. Finishing the objective however, was a different mission altogether.


Although the controls for both teams were practically identical, they controlled very differently to each other. The spies are viewed from a third person view, and are free to traverse the level with almost complete freedom; climbing up pipes, running along train carts, crawling over ceilings and through air ducts, the mix between classic and modern gameplay a perfect fit. The mercenaries on the other hand, are handled through a first person view and aren’t nearly as agile. Their lesser Parkour skills possibly due to the armour they wear, which sees them able to take considerably more damage than the spies. Don’t get me wrong, they can still sprint around, climb boxes, and vault over railings, just not to the extent of their opponents. Lack of agility aside, the mercenary’s increased fire power makes them formidable. They also have an Aliens style motion tracker to at least give them some edge.

The spies suffer from a severe lack of fire power, instead armed with a stun inducing crossbow and a multitude of gadgets including the series famous sticky cams and the welcome return of night vision goggles. They do however have a devastating melee attack at their disposal to help even the playing field a little. Able to take out a mercenary with one hit is a huge advantage, but timing is everything; run at an opponent head on and you’ll be on the floor before you know it, so sneak attacks were the order of the day. Of course for the braver, more patient player there was also the option of ‘death from above’, the incredibly satisfying instant kill that first appeared in Splinter Cell: Conviction which added even more strategy. Not so satisfying was being on the receiving end of one. In fact some would call it infuriating, but it’s impossible not to smile just a little when it happens.


Before long it was time to meet our teams and get the aforementioned tournament started:

The game mode for the tournament was a little different to the classic 2v2 from earlier. The name of the game now was 4v4, and the objective for the spies this time was to hack all three consoles within the allotted time. The mercenaries still had to fend off the spies for said time limit, with the winner this time being the team that had hacked the most terminals. Experience points were now being rewarded which could be used to purchase new load outs for each side. Either side had three specialist characters and two custom slots available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The toys and gadgets on offer with each load out offered different ways to play and showed a great degree of variety, and most importantly balance between the spies and mercenaries. For each seemingly untouchable combination there seemed to be something that could counter and be countered in return, allowing for deep strategies to be formed within the teams.

Team work is absolutely key to not just winning, but standing a fighting chance in general. Unfortunately at first ‘Team 5’ seemed to suffer from a slight case of social anxiety. During out first couple of games we weren’t really communicating and it really showed, but as the games went on we became more vocal, and actually working as a team completely changed the game. The battles became intense, we were literally screaming instructions, setting traps, organising load outs so all bases were covered. We actually felt like a team; every player backing up another, tactics were being planned and executed, and even kill cams became an advantage to the team by giving us a few seconds to shout out enemy positions.


Unfortunately that’s where this game is going to suffer online. As a lone wolf you will stand absolutely no chance, and playing a game that requires co-operation and team work with randoms doesn’t usually end well. That being said however, I can see it being an absolute blast when getting together with a group of close friends to communicate and dominate with. I’m already figuring out my team mates in anticipation of Black List’s release next week.

Needless to say ‘Team 5’ did not win the tournament, but to tell the truth it really didn’t matter. The game looks like it’s going to be a ridiculous amount of fun at release, especially with friends, and I can’t wait to see what the other levels and load outs will be like. It’s great to see the mode returning to the franchise, and even better to see a multiplayer option in a primarily single player game that isn’t just tagged on like so many others seem to be. Ubisoft appear to be doing an amazing job and have really been listening to the fans, which can only be a good thing for veteran soldiers and rookies alike.

Official Game Site

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  1. Great write up cant wait for this to release since a ps3 owner i had to miss out on convictions

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